Restoration work on Clark Fork delta set to begin

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A large restoration effort in the Clark Fork River delta is set to start this month and continue into March 2015.

The project is being coordinated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game with input from local entities and individuals.

Work will begin in the Clark Fork drift yard this week. During construction, public access to the Clark Fork drift yard and boat launch will be closed.

Extensive bank erosion has occurred to islands and shorelines in the Clark Fork River delta, resulting in losses of soil and native riparian and wetland vegetation. Erosion has also impacted the quantity and quality of fish and wildlife habitat.

Much of the shoreline erosion in the Clark Fork delta is the result of wave action and water level fluctuations of Lake Pend Oreille.

The wave action is a result of the operation of the Albeni Falls Dam.

Additional habitat loss in the delta is attributed to the operation of the Cabinet Gorge Dam located upstream on the Clark Fork River.

The altered hydrology in the Clark Fork River and delta has resulted in changes in the wetland and aquatic vegetation cover.

The result is that many of the delta's wetland functions are severely impaired.

The restoration project is designed to protect areas vulnerable to erosion while improving and diversifying key riparian and wetland habitats; and, to restore natural ecological function in the delta.

The placement of large woody debris will add habitat complexity and promote the growth of diverse native riparian vegetation. Native species such as black cottonwood, dogwood and willow will benefit.

The project is scheduled to occur in stages to reduce impacts to fish and wildlife, as well as to reduce interruptions to public access.

Phase one, includes activities in the drift yard area and on two large island areas in the delta. The project will improve access to these areas from Idaho Highway 200. Roadways along the drift log yard will also be improved.

The second phase involves White Island and Derr Island.

The start date for the second phase of the project is yet to be determined, and is expected to occur within a few years.

A webpage has been created to provide ongoing information regarding the project. The website can be accessed at www.clarkforkdelta.org.

Individuals willing to provide volunteer assistance in the project are encouraged to sign up at the website.

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